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For my research in the field of orbital maneuvers I consider the orbital transfers with space tugs. For the high-thrust maneuvers I used the parameters of Fregat and Volga space tugs. However, for low-thrust transfers I can't find any example of a space tug.

Question

What are the realistic parameters of a low-thrust space tug (dry mass, fuel mass, specific impulse, etc.)?

Links and references would be appreciated.

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  • $\begingroup$ When you say high thrust vs low thrust can I assume you are really asking about chemical vs ion propulsion? $\endgroup$ Jun 14 '20 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Anything that can dock and produce thrust is doing the work of a tug. I’m assuming you are looking for ion propulsion examples to compare to the craft you mentioned. The DAWN craft was the first operational solar and ion thruster pairing. jpl.nasa.gov/blog/2013/7/dawns-journey-a-power-trip The most powerful ion based system conceived to the point of specifications is the cancelled Jupiter Icy Moons craft, which would have been nuclear/ion. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Icy_Moons_Orbiter. I know these are not tugs, but there are usable figures. $\endgroup$ Jun 14 '20 at 16:15
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You might want to check out this MSc research published in 2017: "Feasibility of Reusable Continuous Thrust Spacecraft for Cargo Resupply Missions to Mars."

The author's hypothesis was that currently low-thrust engines could be used to for space tugs between the Earth and Mars to send dozens of tons to Mars and return 10 tons back to Earth (if I recall the numbers correctly). That hypothesis turned out to be wrong.

I've got a copy of the code for the control laws used in this thesis.

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Please be aware of different uses of the phrase "space tug" I've noticed in literature and at conferences.

Meaning A is a vehicle resident in space capable of i) rendezvous and docking, ii) manoeuvering and iii) releasing a client.

Meaning B is just items ii) and iii) and thus can include spacecraft considered by some to be "just" an upper stage, e.g. Fregat, Volga, regardless of how sophisticated it might be. Maybe this distinction isn't important to your interest, that's all ok.

Low thrust examples:

Thereafter obviously MEV is an example for Meaning A. The Curie upper stage for the electron launch vehicle is an example for Meaning B. They are both well known enough that wikipedia is a good starting point.

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